Whilst interning at Kipepeo, I have been taking an online course called ‘Challenges of Global Poverty’ on www.edx.org that looks at the challenges of massive and persistent global poverty. For me, it has been an excellent opportunity to engage with leading scholars in the field and learn about the issues that are still burdening the global south. It has also allowed me to better understand the objectives of Kipepeo designs, and the depths of poverty that the women in Kibera are exposed to. The course details the extreme poverty that cripples so many in the developing world, something which is all too familiar in Kibera, Nairobi.
One of the major themes that is addressed through the lectures is the idea of a poverty traps- it explores the ways in which individuals can succumb to them, and whether or not government policy and international aid can help to over come them.
An interesting point that surfaced during the lectures was the idea that income today can affect your income tomorrow. For example, if an individual does not have the income to consume the sufficient amount of calories in order to undertake a full days work, they cannot work, thus facilitating the creation of poverty traps. Eating the minimum amount of calories required only works to keep your body alive, and leaves little space to undertake work.
Another way in which income today can affect your income tomorrow is if an individual does not have the income to fund their child’s educational pursuits, and requires them to enter the labour market in order to survive. Their life chances are drastically reduced, and will potentially face the same levels of poverty that the parent is exposed to- and thus a poverty trap is created.
In the context of Kipepeo Designs, it is crucial to understand that the work that these women carry out, not only helps to alleviate them from their plights, but also allows for their children to have a better future. The money that they receive allows for them to ensure that their basic needs are met, aids their escape from the slums of Kibera, and directly impacts their children’s future. In addition, the psychological and emotional support that the women receive will help for them to not fall victim to the psychological problems that arise from extreme poverty, therefore allowing them to be more productive and carry out work.
For me, the most concerning issue that is discussed in the lectures, is the issue of healthcare. For developing countries to prosper, grow and escape poverty, a healthy citizenry is key. However, in developing countries this is a difficult goal to achieve. Those individuals who are battling extreme poverty are less likely to invest in preventative care because the cost they will incur happens today, and the benefits are in the future. People are more likely to invest in health care if they can physically see and feel that they are unwell, but by then it are often too late. In addition, if there is a chance that they may not get the said disease, then the desire to invest in preventative care becomes less attractive. Government initiatives to help drive individuals towards investing in health care are usually unsuccessful. They require a high level of trust between a government and it’s citizens, which is hard to gain in developing countries because they have proven disastrous in the past. An example of a failed government initiative is the MMR vaccine and autism in the USA, and the Polio vaccine and sterilization in India.
One of the reasons as to why the work Kipepeo undertakes is so important, is because the women that work for us are able to create a strong support system with each other, share their experiences, and educate one other on basic means of survival. In addition, the payment they receive can be used in order to get health care and prevent them from falling victim to curable diseases.
So far, the course has given me invaluable insight into the struggles that individuals living in extreme poverty face, as well as the problems that respective governments have in trying to create policy that works to reduce poverty. It has increased my drive and determination for wanting to help Kipepeo Designs and the women in Kibera. However, although we sell a large number of cards, unfortunately the women that work for us in Kibera need more work in order to financially meet their most basic needs. Please help us spread the message by recommending us to your friends and family. Buy cards... change lives.
Jo Bundo, March 2014